Ireland 20 England 32
Sean McMahon reporting from the Aviva Stadium
England inflicted Ireland’s first defeat since the summer tour of Australia last year after scoring four tries, two in either half, as Joe Schmidt’s side couldn’t find an answer to the excellent kicking game and physical approach from the visitors.
England made their intentions known almost immediately when they won a lineout near Ireland’s 22 with just seconds on the clock.
Jamie George intentionally threw the ball long over the top to an onrushing Manu Tuiliagi and the Leicester Tigers man blasted into contact as Josh van der Flier bravely took him down.
Tuilagi was involved again just a few phases later with another brutal carry as England set up in Ireland’s 22.
In the same passage of play Owen Farrell sent a sublime zipping flat pass out to Elliot Daly who sucked in the last defender to send Jonny May over in the corner.
Farrell, who was excellent from the tee all day, sent over the touchline conversion to get England off to a dream start.
Ireland responded by getting territory in England’s 22 thanks in part to May kicking the ball out on the full.
After a Peter O’Mahony take at the back of a lineout, Ireland went through the phases resolutely until a white shirt failed to roll away from a ruck which allowed Sexton the opportunity to get Ireland’s first points on the board with a penalty.
In what was an action-packed first half, one of the big incidents which took place saw Tom Curry sent to the bin for a high and late tackle on Ireland winger Keith Earls.
Five minutes later, Earls won on the receiving end of another piece of illegal contact when Maro Itoje collided with the Limerick man as he attempted to field a high ball. The Saracens lock, who escaped a yellow, didn’t have his eyes on the ball and captain Rory Best made his feelings known by telling referee Jerome Garces that the incident should have warranted further punishment.
After 22 minutes, won a penalty directly in front of the posts but just as Curry was returning from his stint in the sin-bin, Sexton sent the penalty to the corner looking for a full return.
The decision to go to the corner proved to be the correct one as a powerful Irish maul was stopped just short of the line. A few phases of close range carries yielded a penalty advantage as England desperately attempted to disrupt Irish ball but Joe Schmidt’s side sensed a try as Healy took it upon himself to get over the whitewash from about a metre out.
Sexton’s touchline conversion gave Ireland a three-point lead with about 15 minutes remaining in the first half.
After Ireland did brilliantly to get back into the lead, they soon found themselves gathering under their own posts for the second time in this half.
A sliced Robbie Henshaw clearance gave England a period of possession in Ireland’s 22 and this eventually led to the away side’s second try of the game.
In what was a well-worked move, Daly sent through a grubber kick which Stockdale collected in his own try area. However, Jack Nowell showed great work ethic to chase as his tackle on Stockdale saw the ball dispossessed from the Ulsterman’s hands as Daly was on hand to touch the ball down.
Another mistake from Ireland led to another score from England as the first half drew to a close.
Ireland were penalised when Rory Best’s lineout throw in his own 22 was deemed not to be straight and this gave England a scrum just 5m from the Irish line.
Mako Vunipola thought he had scored England third try but it was ruled out due to double movement but with Eddie Jones’ side having a penalty advantage, Farrell sent the ball between the sticks to give England a 10-17 lead at the break.
England dominated possession and territory for the opening 10 minutes of the second half until Garry Ringrose put in a huge hit on Owen Farrell.
The ball fell to the deck and it was kicked into oceans of space. The away knocked on when trying to rescue the situation and this gave Ireland an attacking scrum on England’s 22m line.
From the resulting scrum and subsequent phases, Ireland were awarded a penalty which Sexton knocked over to leave just four points between the sides.
Sexton was at fault for giving away a poor penalty when he didn’t roll away from a ruck but thankfully from an Irish perspective, Farrell failed to find his target with a long-range effort and the margin remained at four points with less than 20 minutes remaining.
However, England got their reward about five minutes later when a sweeping backline move saw May kick the ball downfield towards the Irish line where Henry Slade was quickest to collect and dot down. Garces checked with his TMO to see if Slade was ahead of May when he kicked the ball but the try was allowed. Farrell missed the conversion but with less than 15 minutes remaining, England had a nine-point lead.
Things got worse for Ireland soon after when Ringrose was smashed behind the gainline by Courtney Lawes who had come on for George Kruis. The Leinster centre was penalised for killing the ball on the deck which allowed Farrell another opportunity in front of the posts and this time he converted.
To rub further salt into the wounds, England secured the bonus point when Slade intercepted a Sexton pass in Ireland’s 22.
John Cooney who replaced Conor Murray for the final few minutes got Ireland’s second try of the game but it was little consolation as the reigning champions face an uphill battle to retain their title.
Ireland: Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls (Larmour 40′), Garry Ringrose (Carbery 74′), Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy (Kilcoyne 61′), Rory Best (c) (Cronin . 67′), Tadhg Furlong (Porter 61′), Devin Toner (Roux 57′), James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander (O’Brien 65′).
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, John Cooney, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.
England: Elliot Daly, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny May, Owen Farrell (c), Ben Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler (Williams 65′), Maro Itoje (Hughes 54′), George Kruis (Lawes 53′), Mark Wilson, Tom Curry, Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge, Harry Williams, Courtney Lawes, Nathan Hughes, Dan Robson, George Ford, Chris Ashton.